Saturday, 22 July 2017

Is your garden holiday proof?

Are you going away on holiday this summer? Have you thought about how your garden will cope without you? Of course your plants can keep on growing by themselves but what if there is a really hot dry spell and there's nobody at home to water anything? It's quite normal even if you're not a gardener to hope it's raining back home all the time you are building sandcastles on a sunny beach somewhere far away, but if summer returns home before you do then you may come back to loads of shrivelled up shrubs and floppy, faded flowers. Not to mention a lawn full of dandelions. And will you have the energy to get the garden back to it's best after taking it easy for a week or two? Here are some simple ways to help your garden cope with being ignored, and leave you less to do when you get back...

Prepare your pots

holiday proof garden upturned water bottle in pots Green Fingered Blog
Slow release water from an upside down bottle 
Plants in pots are the most vulnerable to extremes of weather. Pots can heat up and dry out quickly meaning that plants in containers are more likely to wither in hot conditions than those in the ground. Their roots are more constrained so they have less access to moisture, and being above ground they have less opportunity to stay cool too.
Before you go away, water all pots thoroughly. Give them a good soaking so that the soil is well saturated. Include liquid feed to add nutrition. An upturned plastic bottle full of water with the open top pushed into the ground is a good way of supplying a bit of extra water while you are away.
holiday proof garden containers moved to cool shady spots Green Fingered Blog
Lettuce in a container moved to the shade of the pergola
Plenty of pots enjoy life against a sunny South facing wall, but most will nonetheless perish in hot weather without regular watering. If you haven't got anyone to do that for you, put them in a saucer to retain more of any rain that does fall. 

If you can, move containers to shady spots to slow the dehydration period during hot spells. Moving as many as you can to against the North facing wall, or under a larger shrub, will help reduce moisture loss, and extend the period plants can survive for unattended.

Flower beds and borders  

Before you leave your garden to its own devices, water it well and if a dry spell is forecast then mulch it by adding compost or bark chippings around the base of the plants. This will keep any moisture from evaporating away too quickly.

Geranium flower holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
Worth picking this now if you're going away
Next, deadhead anything that's finished flowering so that it doesn't run to seed while you're away. Once they set seed, plants will reduce their efforts to flower, so its also worth picking anything that's just starting to go over, like this geranium. By the time you come back, many flowers blooming when you go might have completely finished or set seed, but if you pick them all then they should produce a load more flowers to welcome you home.

Sweet pea seed pod Holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
Sweet pea pods - not as pretty as the flowers!
If there are any plants you take cut flowers from, like sweet peas for example, then it's worth picking all the flowers you can even if you won't get to enjoy them. It means there will be more fresh ones to enjoy when you come home. Much better to come home to a fresh flush of colourful blooms than plants full of seed pods. Plenty of time for seeds later in the year!


Cut grass holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
The Green Green Grass of Home
If you have a lawn then the more often you cut it, the easier it is and the better it looks. If you're going away for a while it could be hard work when you come back, especially if the weather has actually been wet while you are away and it's grown. It's worth giving the grass a trim before you go, but don't over do it. If the weather is dry then short grass will dry up and turn brown more easily. Tidy it up by all means but don't cut it too short.   Then give it a good watering if you can. A really good soak once a week is good practice for watering lawns, so do it before you go and it should see it through without problems, even in high summer.


Bird bath holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
Fill up the bird bath before you go
Don't forget your feathered friends. Top up any bird feeders before you go, and make sure there is water in the bird bath if you have one too.

So there are some simple jobs you can do to make sure your garden survives being ignored while you are off enjoying yourself somewhere else. Of course, in the UK you can never be sure whether you are leaving the garden to cope with a drought or a flood. In fact the last fortnight proves that it could even be both! But it's worth doing something just in case. Happy holidays everyone, I hope the weather is kind to you and your garden!  

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